SUMMIT, NJ - The sky overhead was as blue as the uniform that the late Detective Matthew Tarentino wore with pride, honor and distinction. Yes, Mother Nature did her part, providing a pristine canvas on which the City of Summit and its Police Department crafted a 'thank you card' to the Hilltop City's residents via an event that reflected all that Tarentino embodied and espoused -- community, compassion, and family.
The result was "Making a Difference Day," a celebration of all that Tarentino represented and reinforced in his role as the face of the Summit's Community Policing Unit, an initiative he led up until his tragic passing in an automobile accident on May 30.
While his loss was and is heartbreaking, the way he lived his life was -- in itself -- life-affirming, and while the event primarily enabled the Summit Police Department and the City to thank the entire Summit community for its outpouring of support, it also felt like a beginning of sorts, perhaps more of a renewed call to action.
That theme was present in remarks from Summit Chief of Police Robert Weck who, standing with many of his uniformed officers behind him, told the crowd that had assembled on The Village Green, "I am not going to talk too much about Matt, because today is about you, Summit. We miss him every day and he and his family will always be a part of the Summit Police Family and the Summit community. Today is a way to say thank you for your amazing support, which lifted us during this very difficult time, and it also a way to reinforce how we, as a community, can live our lives in a way that honor's Matt's legacy."
Weck went on to encourage everyone to commit to a Random Act of Kindness Everyday -- R.A.K.E. for short. "There is so much tension and discord in society today, but If we all R.A.K.E. at least once a day, maybe Summit can show our nation and the world how we can all help each other and love one another."
Summit Mayor Nora Radest echoed Weck's sentiments, saying, "We come together to as a community today to emphasize the importance of of making a difference, and how the example of one very special police detective has truly influenced all of us. Matthew Tarentino made a difference in the lives of everyone he met; I challenge all of us to strive to do what he did each day."
"Making a Difference Day" actually began with a the unveiling of 'Detective Matthew Tarentino Way', a ceremonial naming of Chestnut Avenue bordering Summit City Hall / Summit Police Headquarters.
The centerpiece of the festivities was actually an amalgamation of activities representing a 'greatest hits' of Summit Community events, beginning with a parade through downtown to The Village Green, live music performances, bounce houses and magic shows for the kids, food trucks, and a nighttime movie.
The mash-up of events featured representation from the entirety of Summit's public safety agencies, including the Summit Police Department, Summit Fire Department, and Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad. Elected officials, the general public, the Summit High School Cheer Squad, and the Summit High School Varsity Football Team coaches and players were among those who marched in the parade.